10 Festivals in Metro Manila You Shouldn’t Miss

The annual U.P. fair, La Loma's lechon fest, San Juan's Basaan, and more!

Manila is a dynamic place that not just crams one of the largest metropolitan urban populations in the world into a small space, but also tries to combine and reconcile disparate philosophies, customs and traditions from a colorful past. Festivals have been the city's way of expressing itself and flaunting its culture to outsiders while celebrating and preserving centuries-old traditions with the influx of new ideas. While Manila might remind one of a buzzing metropolis, people still find a way to peel back the corporate veneer of urban living and embrace the artistic, the cultural, and sometimes, even the quirky and the esoteric.

Here, SPOT.ph lists 10 not-to-miss festivals happening in Metro Manila that are easily accessible to denizens of the urban jungle. Wouldn't you want to be part of festivities that don’t require booking a flight?


What: The University of the Philippines Fair
When: February 15 to 19
Where: Sunken Garden, University of the Philippines Campus, Quezon City



Franco performs "Castaway" at  UP Fair 2010, 11 February 2010


This could be just about any school's fair, really. The university environment can certainly inject a new dimension to partying and merrymaking and once you include large crowds and the best bands, it's hard to imagine how the event can turn out to be a dud. That's why droves of people flock to the University of the Philippines Diliman every February to celebrate a week filled with great music and chaotic frenzy in the mosh pit.

For more information, visit the U.P. Fair 2011 Facebook page.


What: Bamboo Organ Festival
When: February 17 to 23
Where: St. Joseph’s Parish Church, Las Pinas

Bamboo Organ Festival


Las Pinas’ prized bamboo organ is housed in St.Joseph’s parish

The Bamboo Organ Festival features musical and cultural presentations showcasing the instrument's unique qualities and best attributes. As wide-eyed elementary students, most Pinoys were taught about the prized instrument of Las Pinas and how it was one of a kind. It's very likely though that only a few people north of Las Pinas have bothered to really visit the church to check it out.  The bamboo organ is housed in St. Joseph's Parish where it has been used to grace most of the masses and services for nearly two centuries. Aside from being a marvel from a musical standpoint, the rich history of the still-functioning-relic as a silent witness to the changing of the times is also awe-inspiring.

For ticket inquiries, call the Foundation Secretariat at tel. nos. 820 0795 or 825 7190, or visit www.bambooorgan.org.


What: La Loma's Lechon Festival
When: Every third Sunday of May
Where: La Loma, Quezon City


La Loma's Lechon Festival

La Loma’s Lechon Festival features a lechon parade

La Loma is synonymous with one thing and one thing only - lechon - and during May, the people of this district in the crossroads between Manila and Quezon City celebrate their crispy-skinned claim to fame by dressing up lechon and parading them down the main street. Just like in a similar lechon festival in Balayan, Batangas, La Loma doesn't only make the lechons look pretty for the big parade - half the fun is chomping down on the oily and crunchy beauties.


For more information, visit the La Loma Facebook page.


What: Flores de Mayo
When: May
Where: Intramuros, all over Manila and nationwide

Flores de Mayo

Santacruzan sa Intramuros

Santacruzans are dime a dozen during the month of May but with the Department of Tourism trying to relive the glamor and charm of the walls of Intramuros, the Santacruzan in the walled city could very well be a must see. Imagine the cobblestone streets and old buildings as silent but dignified witnesses to a tradition that has been in the Filipino way of life since the Spanish times and you'll see how the setting of Intramuros adds to the experience. Quite frankly, other versions of this tradition can be quite tacky and somewhat pretentious - in Intramuros, it would probably feel a lot more appropriate.


For more information, visit the Department of Tourism website.


What: Filipino Heritage Festival
When: May
Where: Intramuros, all over Manila and nationwide

Filipino Heritage Festival

In 2008, The Philippine Ballet Theater staged the Maranao epic Darangen in celebration of Filipino Heritage Month

Filipino culture takes center stage every May as the Philippines' celebrates Filipino Heritage Month. This festival is actually supported by a proclamation straight from the desk of the Office of the President so government offices such as the National Council for Culture and the Arts (now headed by Boy Abunda) and backed by the private sector. It's the perfect time to reconnect with your Filipino Heritage. There are no schedules so far available on the festival's website but it's a good bet that the epicenter of the festivities would be in Intramuros - the site of NCCA's main office and the heart of everything that's Spanish Colonial in Manila.


For more information, visit the Filipino Heritage Festival website.

What: The Independence Day Celebrations
When: Second week of June
Where: Quirino Grandstand (parade), all over Manila and nationwide


Celebrities celebrate Independence Day at the Quirino Grandstand


Admit it. You've never really gone to the Independence Day celebrations. It may not be on the same level as the lavish mass games that North Koreans try to pull out for their beloved leader but us Filipinos do try. There's an annual parade in the Quirino Grandstand to commemorate the bravery of those who fought the Spaniards off right before we declared our independence on June 12, 1898.

For more information, visit the Department of Tourism website.

What: The Feast Day of San Juan
When: June 24
Where: San Juan

Watch out! In San Juan, it’s tradition to splash water on passing motorists as part of the day’s festivities


June 24 marks the feast day of Saint John the Baptist and people from the city named after the saint take all the liberty to baptize just about everyone in sight during this day. It is not a highly organized event like other festivals but other people sure participate by bringing the buckets, basins and (gasp) garden hoses! The fire department sometimes gets into the action as well making it a really wild and wacky event.

What's not funny about it is that the feast day is not considered as a holiday in other parts of the metro. Any unsuspecting biker or jeepney rider would definitely be drenched. If you're driving through San Juan on this day, make sure that you keep your windows closed unless you want to take another shower on your way to work. Other cities like Navotas and Malabon also uphold this tradition. One could also surmise that the almost one dozen towns in the Philippines named San Juan would also go into a water war frenzy.


For more information, visit the Department of Tourism website.


What: Bailes de los Arcos
When: June 29 and 30
Where: Barangay Poblacion, Makati


Bailes de los Arcos celebrates the feast days of Makati’s triumvirate of patrons with lots of dancing

Makati is not a monolithic city with nothing more to offer than just skyscrapers and posh shopping malls. If you look hard enough in the so-called Old Makati, you will see traces of an interesting culture far removed from the buttoned down and somehow stiff vibe. Bailes de los Arcos is done every year to commemorate the feast days of both Apostles Paul and Peter.  What makes the dancing unique is the use of colorful and floral-inspired arcs that are meant to show the people's gratitude towards the two Apostles. Along with the Nuestra Senora, the two Apostles have always been considered to be Makati's triumvirate of patrons.


For more information, visit the Makati City website.



What: La Naval
When: Every second Sunday of October
Where: Sto. Domingo Church, Quezon City

La Naval

During La Naval, the procession of the Blessed Virgin Mary circles the main streets of Sto. Domingo Parish

The rosary has always been a central item in Catholic iconography and on the second Sunday of October, the Sto. Domingo Church's statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary of La Naval is paraded around the parish to inspire devotees to strengthen their faith and actualize the virtues taught by the rosary in their daily lives. The statue is credited for performing miracles over the past four hundred years of its existence. Unlike other religous festivals, this is a less chaotic exhibition of faith.


For more information, visit the La Naval de Manila Facebook page.


What: Likhang Kamay
When: The last quarter of the year, usually in October
Where: Makati

Likhang Kamay showcases regional goods and handicrafts from all over the country

Likhang Kamay was last hosted by the Yuchengco Museum and ran for three days during the final week of October 2010. With over 7,000 islands and almost 90 million people, it comes as no surprise that the country's various regions can come up with as many products with great commercial value in the local and international markets. Likhang Kamay is an extended exhibition of these regional goods that champion local culture and handicrafts. The items exhibited during this festival include woven materials, pottery and wood carvings.

For more information, visit the Makati Board website.


Photos by Asunta Rufino (Santacruzan sa Intramuros) and from La Naval de Manila Facebook pageLa Loma, QC Facebook page, Bamboo Organ website


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